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How Does the Labelling Theory Affect Crime and Deviance in Society (21)

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How does labelling theory affect crime and deviance in society? (21)
In sociology's study of crime and deviance, basically all of the theorists, excluding notably the Marxist theory, suggest that there is a difference between those who offend and those who do not, and search for key factors that lead people to offend. However, there are a group of theorists who reject this idea and instead suggest that most people commit deviant and criminal acts, but only some people are caught and stigmatised for it and that stress should be placed upon understanding the reaction to and definition of deviance rather than on the causes of the initial act. Although the labelling theory is quite prominent in the study of crime and deviance, there are still criticisers who both give valid accounts to why this theory should or shouldn't be taken as a valid theory.

Firstly, Becker, one of the exponents of the labelling theory, who states that "Deviancy is not a quality of the act a person commits but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an offender. Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label." The study was of a traditional culture on a Pacific Island conducted by Malinowski which describes how a youth killed himself because he had been publically accused of incest. When first asked about incest, the islanders had retorted in disgust, but when pressed on the matter, it was revealed that many had committed acts of incest and that it was not uncommon, providing those involved were discreet. However, as the case had become public knowledge, the islanders reacted with abuse, the offenders were ostracised and in this case driven to suicide. Becker draws from this evidence that just because someone breaks a rule, it does not necessarily follow that others will describe it as deviant, and only if a person is successfully labelled,…...

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